It’s not quite the Longhorn Network, but Kansas’ athletic department rolled out a seven-year agreement with ESPN on Tuesday, firming up a few details of its third-tier television rights.
The deal will allow a minimum of 70 live KU events to be available to a national audience on ESPN3, ESPN’s online platform, which is available in 85 million homes nationwide to fans that receive their Internet or video subscription from an affiliated provider.
The announcement comes on the heels of Kansas’ unveiling of a long-term partnership with Time Warner Cable Sports, which will carry 50 Kansas contests on Metro Sports in Kansas City.
ESPN3 will carry the 50 Time Warner broadcasts to a national audience through its digital platform. In addition, ESPN3 will have the exclusive rights to 20 additional broadcasts.
The previous Time Warner announcement raised questions about how Time Warner would deliver KU broadcasts to fans in Kansas City and Kansas who don’t have Time Warner Cable or a provider that carries Metro Sports. (Comcast in the Kansas City area and WOW in Lawrence also carry Metro Sports.) Most critical, of course, were the six Kansas men’s basketball games that didn’t fall under the Big 12’s contracts with ESPN and CBS.
And there is one potential snag for KU fans in Kansas City: Metro Sports will still be the exclusive home in Kansas City for those 50 contests, including the six basketball games, meaning that those games will likely be blacked out on ESPN3 in the Kansas City area.
But the additional 20 events, exclusive to ESPN3, would be available locally. And all 70 events will be available across the country to KU fans with accessibility to ESPN3.
KU associate athletic director Jim Marchiony said the school was still working on the details for markets outside of Kansas City, including Wichita. KU officials previously said all KU basketball games would be available state-wide.
KU joins Texas as the only Big 12 school with a third-tier rights agreement with ESPN.
“From the start of this process, our goals were to saturate the Kansas City market, distribute Kansas programming throughout the state and make our live events available nationally,” Kansas athletic director Sheahon Zenger said. “We are meeting these goals through agreements like these with ESPN and Time Warner Cable. Both are significant steps for Kansas Athletics and we are excited about the future for all Jayhawk fans — wherever they may be watching.”
ESPN3 is accessible at WatchESPN.com, on smartphones and tablets with the WatchESPN app, and on such technologies as Apple TV or Xbox Live. And the lines between cable and online content continue to blur.
The 70 events include one regular-season football game, the football spring game, the six men’s basketball games (including two exhibition games) and basketball’s Late Night in the Phog, as well as 16 women’s basketball games. ESPN3 will also deliver the Kansas Relays and multiple volleyball, baseball, softball and women’s soccer games.
“ESPN3 continues to serve as a destination for college sports fans, and our agreement with Kansas Athletics extends that commitment,” John Lasker, ESPN’s vice president of programming and acquisitions, said in a statement. “We look forward to delivering these live events to the KU fan base.”